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Everton: Phil Neville moves out of Gary’s shadow


Whereby the Neville brothers are concerned, the spotlight has been on the elder one Gary, as usual some would have said, lately. Nothing new perhaps for Gary has always been in the limelight more than his younger sibling Phil.


Currently, Gary is basking on the glory of being appointed the new Manchester United skipper after the acrimonious departure of Roy Keane. As for Phil Neville, things had apparently taken a turn for the worst after leaving Old Trafford for Everton.


It all started with his new club been knocked out of Europe early in both the Champions League and UEFA Cup. At home, the Toffees were eliminated from the Carling Cup and were struggling for form in the English Premiership in the first few months.


However, after assuming the United captaincy things have not exactly been a bed of roses for Gary. Under his leadership the Red Devils were disposed at the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in a decade while the 1-1 draw against Everton have seriously dented their title hopes.


The agony of Gary though is music to the ears of Phil – well, as far as last Sunday was concerned. For after that result, it confirms that Everton are on a mini good run – four wins, one draw and one defeat - with Phil playing a big part in it.


Clearly so as Phil has become a pivotal member of David Moyes’ first eleven since joining the club. Be it in the middle of the park or down the left side of defence, the younger Neville brother has been a consistent performer.


In truth though, his best position is still playing down the middle of the park, where he was hugely deprived of playing time at Old Trafford due to Keane and Nicky Butt ahead of him in the pecking order.


But how the Red Devils were missing his influence in the centre of the park at Old Trafford on 11th of December 2005? While United had the upper hand in that game but they were unable to break down the stubborn rearguard of Everton.


Partly due to the fantastic form of the back four of the Toffees but there was no denying that Phil was the centre of attraction. His reading of the game was immaculate as time and again he cut off some penetrating passes from his former team mates.


To top it all off, nearing the end, he blocked Wayne Rooney’s shot that helped Everton to take a precious point away from the Theatre of Dreams. His contribution was all the more critical considering that the Merseysiders were missing four regulars – Nigel Martyn, Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta and Andy van der Meyde – either through suspensions or injuries.


Ironically, it was due to the missing midfield duo of Arteta and Cahill that forced Moyes to push Phil back to his favoured midfield position. Most importantly for Moyes is the simple fact that when called upon, Phil had yet to let the club down.


In other words, Phil is finally getting the recognition that he deserves and in the process slowly moving away from the shadow of his elder brother. So the next time when there is mention of something good going for a certain Neville brother, maybe it might just be Phil that they are raving about.


Victor Tay

14 December 2005

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